The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has designated the month of July as Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Month. This is the month in the U.S. that people tend to spend the most time outdoors enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. However, what many people seem to forget as soon as the weather warms up is that the sun is a form of UV radiation which causes the skin to burn and can cause skin cancer. I mean, I do understand that intellectually most people are aware of that fact, but reason often gets tossed aside when the great outdoors calls.
Just as a reminder, ultraviolet light is a form of radiation. You know that when you get any kind of X-ray, the technician protects you with a heavy, typically lead-type of shield. However, when you go out into the sun, you tend to forget that you are exposing yourself to radiation.
It is my hope that the following information excerpted from the Oncology Nursing Society website will help to inform and remind you to practice sun safety when having summer fun. For the full story you can visit https://voice.ons.org/stories/raise-awareness-in-july-for-ultraviolet-safety-and-skin-cancer-risk
“The sun emits radiation in the form of UV light, which is classified into three types by wavelength: UVA, UVB, and UVC. The ozone layer is a protective layer in Earth’s stratosphere that blocks all UVC light, but UVB and UVA light pass through it. UVA penetrates deeply into the skin. It’s the type of UV radiation that causes wrinkling or leathering of the skin. UVB is the type of radiation that causes sunburns. Exposure to both UVA and UVB are associated with the development of skin cancer, so it is important to protect the skin during exposure to sunlight.”
“It’s important to remember that UV radiation is at its highest when and where the sun’s rays are the strongest. This means that UV levels will be highest around noon on a clear sunny day. During the summer months when the sun is closest to the earth, this is even more so. UV levels will also be highest near surfaces that reflect sunlight, such as snow, sand and water. Spending a day by the pool, on the beach or on a boat will intensify the sun’s radiation. And, of course, the sun is more pervasive at higher altitudes even in the winter time.”
How Does UV Radiation Affect Skin Cancer?
“One the most dangerous sources of UV radiation is artificial UV lights like the type found in indoor tanning beds. The amount and type of UV radiation depends on the specific lamps used in the bed, how long a person stays in the bed, and how many times the person uses it. Most modern UV tanning beds emit mostly UVA rays, with the rest being UVB. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that indoor tanning may be responsible for an estimated 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the United States annually.”
How to Protect the Skin From UV Radiation
Fortunately, there are measures to minimize the risks that comes with sun exposure.
Block UV light with protective clothing. This includes wearing a hat (preferably wide brimmed) as well as shade-protective clothing. This can partly shield the skin from the harmful effects of UV ray exposure. The American Academy of Ophthalmology notes that many forget to wear sunglasses that have a label that says protects 99% of UV radiation for eye protection.
Stay in the shade, especially when UV radiation is most intense at midday between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. The sun can still damage the skin on cloudy days or in the winter, so year-round protection is important. Use caution when near reflective surfaces, like water, snow, and sand, which can reflect the damaging rays of the sun. This can increase the chance of sunburn, even in areas that appear to be shaded. Individuals can experience more UV exposure at higher altitudes that have less atmosphere to absorb UV radiation.
Choose the right sunscreen and apply it correctly.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s regulations for sunscreen labeling recommend that the sunscreen have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, and it should protect against both UVA and UVB radiation. According to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, most people apply only 25%–50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. When out in the sun, apply at least one ounce (a palmful) of sunscreen every two hours. It should be applied more often when sweating or swimming, even if the sunscreen is waterproof.
Stay away from sources of artificial UV light. There is no such thing as a safe tan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stress that indoor tanning significantly increases the risk of developing melanoma, basal, and squamous cell cancers. It also causes premature aging of the skin and suppresses the immune system.”
Keep Your Skin Healthy And Beautiful
Skin is the body’s largest organ. It’s more than simply a container for our other organs. With good care, it will stay beautiful and function efficiently for a lifetime. Enjoy the sunshine and please take precautions.